That segued into a song, and I was tickled to realise that we were singing "Crackers and Turkey" - better known to me as "Somebody's Birthday" which was the title song of a four-track Christmas cassette first made by the Scottish singer/songwriter Ian White in 1983 or 84. The songs are
~ It's Somebody's Birthday
~ Joyful News
~ Would you like to hold a baby?
~ Merry Christmas to you
You can download a free pdf file of each of these songs from the Ready & Willing - Children's Collection page of Ian's website, LittleMistyMusic (where you can also buy the music CD of the Children's Collection - a double album)
Ian made the original cassette with a secondary school - somewhere in the Portlethen area I think (Ian, if you see this, please correct me if I'm wrong!) - and I gave it its first radio broadcast airing on NorthSound Radio that Christmas. Then around 1987 Ian and I collaborated in a NorthSound Radio Christmas concert in the Music Hall in Aberdeen. In among readings, stories, and popular carols, the songs from the early cassette were presented by children from four local schools that Ian had worked with specially for the concert. It was a memorable evening, not least for the fact that as mc I had to make up a story about the real live lambs in the foyer escaping from their pen. Well, you have to cover technical glitches somehow without destroying the atmosphere!
Flying a flag
But in our church this morning, in the midst of all our anticipation and preparation for the Christmas festival, we were also reminded of the price paid by some today for their freedom. We have a West Papuan family among us, and they carry in their hearts the pain of knowing that fellow countrymen and women are suffering for their nationhood:
On 1st December 2004, two West Papuan men were arrested for the 'crime' of publicly raising their national flag, the Morning Star.
Filep Karma and Yusak Pakage were tried in May 2005, on charges of treason and expressing hostility towards the state, and handed down prison sentences of 15 and 10 years respectively.
Jailing people for raising a flag is unjust and unacceptable. Filep and Yusak are prisoners of conscience, and the Free West Papua Campaign is calling for their immediate and unconditional release.
We were asked to help by the simple means of signing a postcard to go to the Indonesian Ambassador. Amnesty International has recognised the two as prisoners of conscience, and the postcard information is available from the Oxford-based Free West Papua campaign site.
Perhaps we can contribute to someone else's comfort and joy?